Oftentimes, finding the right material for your new innovative product can feel like half the battle. It’s difficult to know ahead of time how a specific material will perform in certain applications, especially if you’ve never worked with it before. To make things even more difficult, most designers are working within constraints created by a number of factors. As a designer yourself, you’re probably all too familiar with these questions:
First and foremost, designers think of foam as a functional material. It’s used to fill upholstery, insulate roofs, and package products. But it’s a mistake to think of foam only from this functional perspective.
Think about the soft seats on the playground equipment your kids use, the rowing shoes you wear to work out, and even the spa pillow that supports your neck during relaxing baths. In all these cases, you — the end user — have a relationship with the product.
When we begin conversations with prospects considering injection molded foam as an option, there’s always a point where the discussion leads to what the finished product will ultimately look like. Most designers and engineers are familiar with basic molding processes and through their experience can quickly grasp the options. Others that are new to manufacturing processes or just have never worked in plastics appreciate understanding more about how these feature details can be applied to injection molded foam.
Undercuts are like the forbidden fruit of product design. They’re incredibly enticing, especially for young design students who are eager to create esoteric shapes. I specifically remember the first time I learned about undercuts back in design school. It seemed that every cool shape I wanted to create had an undercut. However, I was told that undercuts are also expensive to produce and unreliable at scale.